Private G/442 Henry Whittaker

Killed in Action on Sunday, 14th October 1917, age unknown.
Commemorated on Bay 7 of Arras Memorial, Pas De Calais, France.

6th Bn., Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment). 37th Brigade of 12th Division.

Born: Dudley Port, Enlisted: Bromley, Kent, Resident: Penge, Kent.

First landed France & Flanders, 21st April 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/777007/

Genealogical Data

1891 Census
1 Court 3 House, Dudley Port, Tipton, Staffs.
Eli Whittaker (48, Coal Miner, born Brierley Hill), his wife Mary Ann (24, born Tipton), and Eli's 4 children from his first marriage: Mary (18, Hinge Filer, born Tipton), Frederick (14, Coal Miner, born Tipton), Elisha (12, born Tipton), and Henry (10, born Tipton).

1901 Census
Could not trace, but not living with his father and step-mother who were still living in Dudley Port.

1911 Census
17 Vineleigh Road, Penge, Kent.
Henry Whittaker (30, Coal Miner, born Dudley Port), and his wife Annie (36, born Dudley Port).

His Medal Index Card shows that on 22nd March 1920 Mrs Whittaker of 20 Station Road, Penge, applied for her late husband's medals.

Personal Data

Henry enlisted with the South Staffs Regiment on 1st April 1897 for 7 years and 5 years in the Reserves. He gave his age (incorrectly) as 18 years, and his father as Eli Whittaker of 1 House 3 Court, Dudley Port, Tipton. He was 5 feet 5¾ inches tall, with a 32½-inch chest, and weighed 116 pounds. He had numerous scars, had a fresh complexion, brown eyes and brown hair. His physical development was described as 'very fair'; he was a Wesleyan and had been employed as a boatman.

His military career first time round was short and inglorious. He was posted to the 1st South Staffs on 8th July 1897, and by the 27th July he was placed in confinement. On 3rd August 1897 he was convicted at a District Court Martial of 'Desertion' and' Losing by neglect his Arms and Clothing'; he was sentenced to 42 days Hard Labour. He returned to duty on 14th September but by the 29th November he was again placed in confinement. On 6th December 1897 he was convicted at a District Court Martial of 'using insubordinate language' and' using threatening language'; he was sentenced to 84 days Hard Labour. Just 10 days later on 16th December, he was discharged as being 'incorrigible and worthless'.

After Henry's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £3/14/0d (3 pounds and 14 shillings); this was paid to his widow and sole legatee, Ann J., in March 1918. His War Gratuity was £14/0/0d (14 pounds exactly), this was also paid to his widow in November 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that Henry had enlisted in September 1914.

Action resulting in his death

The 6th Royal West Kents took part in the Battle of Arras from the opening day, 9th April 1917. From May onwards they were mostly holding the line east of Monchy-le-Preux, in the area of Infantry Hill and they were still in the Monchy-le-Preux area in October 1917. There were a number of trench raids during their stay, but the most significant and successful was on 14th October.

200 men of the 6th Royal West Kents took part in the raid with the triple objectives of: killing the enemy, destroying dug-outs and equipment, and obtaining identification of the enemy units before returning to the starting point. The attack was approximately 3/4 of a mile south east of Monchy-le-Preux, and was to attack the first 2 lines of enemy trenches, known as Strap Trench and Buckle Trench.

The attack commenced at 4.55pm on 14th October after an 8 hour artillery bombardment, and under cover of a creepng barrage. After 30 minutes of frantic activity, the raiders returned to their own trenches, as planned. The raid was judged a complete success, and it reportedly caused heavy casualties to the enemy, and the men of the 6th Royal West Kents returned with 31 prisoners.

Although judged successful, it still cost the lives of 12 men of the 6th Royal West Kents, including Henry Whittaker. Henry has no known grave, and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial.

Newspaper Cuttings